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Posts from the ‘Nolita’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Feeding Out of Towners

seamore's spread

Seamore’s The sustainable seafood restaurant may have won “Instagram Bait of the Year,” but I’ll concede this is a pretty shoddy pic. (There’s a reason no one is paying me $350 to promote their food.) The poke, so LA, and chosen by the visitor from that raw fish-crazed city, was easily the best thing eaten and it was all because of the peanuts in addition to the tuna, avocado, and ponzu. The bluefish in its pure state was fine, and kind of bizarre with miso brown butter that tasted like caramel corn (perhaps better for sweeter shrimp or scallops) The steamed vegetable and grainy sides of the same sort you get at The Meatball Shop (not that I ever eat there, but what I’ve heard from a friend who regularly gets vegetarian meatball takeout and was also was at this dinner, is how inconsistent and frequently half-cooked everything is) were less exciting even though it didn’t matter since the well-fried dogfish tacos took up all my free stomach space.

la perrada de chalo hot dogs

La Perrada de Chalo There are a lot of ways to go when wooing a West Coaster and trying to convince them Queens is a great place to stay even though they’d prefer Manhattan. Don’t attempt Mexican, just don’t, even though we know the Mexican-food-in-NYC-sucks trope is tired. Colombian hot dogs are more than capable of doing the trick, however. Make the crushed potato chips, bacon, pineapple, blackberry sauce, and creamy squiggles of mayonnaise and ketchup blending into one, seem like foreign delicacy. Plus, open 24 hours on weekends, which is a tough call between the nearby White Castle.

dominique ansel kitchen savories

Dominique Ansel Kitchen I chose the chicken chicken paprikash and cheddar chive biscuit when I should’ve just shared the massive croque monsieur. And I’m still stinging from not realizing the edamame avocado toast is actually a bread bowl when I’ve dedicated my life to embracing the edible vessel.

brooklyn diner kugel sundae

Brooklyn Diner I wouldn’t tell anyone to go to Brooklyn Diner (how it happened to me is still vague) but noodle kugel in a sundae was a surprise. And a welcome one along the same rich, custardy lines as leche flan hiding out in a pile of icy halo halo.

cata egg toasts

Cata Kind of underrated. Do we ever hear about this tapas bar I picked primarily because it’s a non-abusive Friday night choice on the Lower East Side? The big gin and tonics (smoked coconut, kaffir lime) are fun, the food doesn’t suck, though even after sharing maybe five things and two desserts (among three, then four for sweets) you still might end up getting tacos on the way home and find out your Oakland friend stopped for cereal milk soft serve in Carroll Gardens. The quail eggs benedict with chorizo were the sleeper hit.

jackson heights white castle

White Castle Yeah, so I was recently at one in Detroit but I’d never been to the location I’ve lived a ten-minute walk from for the past year. And no better time than 4:30am on a Saturday. Semi-related: I’m still waiting for the damn Northern Boulevard Denny’s I was promised.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Skewers, Shawarma, Sable

snack eos duoSnack EOS Ninth Avenue near Times Square can feel more exciting simply because it’s not Eighth Avenue. Even so, there are a few charmers like Larb Ubol that stand out, and now Snack EOS, which was new to me, and possibly new period. Peaceful and non-plasticky, it’s a nice respite from the humidity and suitcase-draggers–and the $14.95 snack box isn’t a bad deal for a sit-down lunch. The taramosalata (pictured) with lots of warm pita and a yellowfin tuna skewer a.k.a. kalamaki with olives and a farro salad, is just one combo from a choice of three starters and an equal number of mains.



la goulette delivery

La Goulette Can you accurately judge a restaurant based on delivery? Probably not. La Goulette already gets points, though, for being one of the only Tunisian restaurants around (and by around, I mean that I can walk to). I appreciated that you could get chicken shawarma (there is merguez, but not much lamb in other forms, oddly) in a style not involving pita or rice. Who cares whether roasted cauliflower and artichokes are a traditional accompaniment  or a modern concession, it worked. There’s plenty of starch in the falafel and hummus-filled “veggie mix.” Don’t worry.

baz bagels nova & sableBaz Bagel It might also be wrong to choose a nouveau Jewish cafe based on the wallpaper. I’ve been researching palm tree and fern wall coverings for the past month and wanted to see some in the wild. (I was also obsessed with the Alloro’s green interior when it first opened, but never enough to prompt an in-person visit.) The food? That’s more difficult to parse. I wasn’t at Baz under pure food-enjoying circumstances to start with (beyond the wallpaper-scoping) yet even if I was paying more attention, the price to proportion might’ve seemed slightly out of whack.. One would think  something described as a tasting plate (nova and sable) and costing $18 would be shareable. Not so. A bagel sandwich might make more sense–or moving on to Black Seed or Russ & Daughters Cafe next time.



threeshovelI’ll admit that a good deal of last year’s lauded openings–Estela, Contra, Piora, Narcissa, All’Onda–blurred to the point where I didn’t feel the urge to try any of them. Clearly, it’s all the A endings. Estela ended up being a standout, though. It’s kind of amazing how much a good seat (booth for two, ftw) and engaged service can color a dining experience. (For contrast, Glasserie, also for a birthday dinner a few days earlier, was kind of maddening.) It’s also one of those places where you might end up spending more than you intended to–and you’ll still leave with a good impression.

estela salt cod & potato croquettes with borani

Salt cod and potato croquettes with what I’m just now realizing was borani, a Persian spinach yogurt dip that I’ve made and wasn’t quite like this.

estela oysters with trout roe & yuzu

The oysters, super briny and tart from the trout roe and yuzu, were a nice contrast to the also snacky dish that preceded them. They had a spicy finish, despite no indication that they included a spicy component.

estela beef tartare with sunchoke

The hyper-red beef tartare mixed with crisped sunchokes nearly resembled a plate of chopped tomatoes rolled in cornflakes. Each bite was both crunchy and luscious with bread hearty enough to match. Slightly oddball and definitely one of the best dishes.

estela burrata with salsa verde & charred bread

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with burrata in a restaurant but assumed it would have to be more than just cheese and oozing cream (as delicious as that is). The green vegetal pool added a freshness that moved the dish from its rich Italian origins.Yes, there’s charred bread as a base.

estela endive, walnuts, anchovy & ubriaco rosso

The super orangey endive arrived unexpectedly; perhaps someone thought we weren’t getting enough vegetables or were missing an important dish. It didn’t originally jump out at me because it seemed austere. Of course it wasn’t because of the strong cheese (urbriaco rosso) and walnuts.

estela lamb ribs with charmoula and honey

Lamb ribs are having a moment, and this version, heavy with cumin and coated with jalapeño-spiked charmoula and topped with more cilantro and mint, is right on. (Estela really likes the color green and so do I.)

estela pork

The pork wasn’t really necessary, especially after those lamb ribs. The meat itself was perfect and rosy, but where I liked the greenness with the burrata, the herb paste hugging one side of the hunk was almost too grassy.

There’s no grief if you don’t order a bottle of wine, which tend to be expensive in comparison to the food (I’d already had a cocktail at the bar and a few beers downstairs at Botanica where they were also playing New Order). Even the wines by the glass are presented thoughtfully–after sampling three “unusual” whites,” I picked a  Jura chardonnay.

As an aside, there was what appeared to be a hot teen (though possibly older since he was clearly drinking) dining on charcuterie at the bar when I first arrived. He was clearly a somebody, based on the attention he was receiving, though I’m fairly certain it was not Flynn McGarry.

Estela * 47 E. Houston St., New York, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Crickets, Chicken Combos, Salted Caramel

La popular quint

La Antojeria Popular We'll always have the
hole-in-the-wall taquerias (and despite what West Coasters argue, NYC has
plenty of Mexican food that doesn't suck) even as flashier entrants come in
waves. La Esquina to Hecho in Dumbo to Tacombi, and more recently El Toro
Blanco, Salvation Taco and La Antojeria Popular, the latter being the newest offering from the
owners of Taka Taka, the Mexican conveyor
belt sushi restaurant in Soho. As the name implies, the menu is made up of
antojitos, a.k.a. little snacks or "Mexican tapas," some more
traditional than others. Pictured is a sampling (gratis, in the name of full disclosure)
that includes the Guerrero (raw tuna cubes and mango tossed in serrano
mayonnaise on a jicama round), Michoacan (chicken in mole sauce with toasted
sesame seeds and crema on a corn tostada), Zacatecas (sirloin, salsa verde,
chihuahua cheese, also on a corn tostada) and Tamaulipas (steak, beans, chihuahua
cheese, pasilla mayonnaise–mayo is definitely a thing–in a pita sort of like
a taco arabe). For obvious reasons the Oaxaca topped with crickets–a little salty and chewy, not so
scary–and avocado on a blue corn tortilla, has gotten the most press. There is
also a small selection of ceviches and sides like the Distrito Federal (a mix
of shrimp, tilapia and beef) and Morelos, which are esquites (corn, mayonnaise,
chile, lime topped with a square of queso fresco). Desserts include a flan with
cajeta and increasingly omnipresent La Newyorkina paletas.

Pio pio matador comboPio Pio My favorite Peruvian chain. Ok, maybe NYC's
only Peruvian chain (I guess there's similarly named Pio Pio Riko too?). The
Matador Combo is $34 well spent, and minus the hot dog fries there's nothing terribly offbeat about Peruvian food, despite it winning the top "exotic" spot among US consumers surveyed about Latin American cuisine. Of course you get the chicken, burnished,
garlicky and salty (I think soy sauce is a not-so-secret ingredient) and no
matter how many birds they churn out (it will never not be crowded on a weekend night) still
moist, plus salchipapas, everyone's favorite french fry and wiener dish, avocado
salad, rice, beans, tostones, and the all-important green sauce (mayonnaise
being the not-at-all-secret ingredient). I like the metal bucket crammed full
of Heinz mustard and ketchup, even if I don't what the condiments are meant to go with.

Big gay ice cream salty pimpBig Gay Ice Cream Shop So, I've never been. Some
people think I don't like desserts, which isn't true at all. I just rarely go
to sweets-only shops and never patronize food trucks or street fairs or carnivals or whevever it is that sugar is sold in multiple formats. The Salty
Pimp with its chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream and salted dulce de leche is
pretty perfect, and they even offer to put it in a dish for you, a flourish I
like because I'm fussy (yes, a fork-and-knife pizza-eater). Don't go after 11pm,
though, if you want something more elaborate like the Monday Sundae (similar
flavors to the Salty Pimp but in a bigger Nutella-lined waffle cone and
smothered in whipped cream) because they won't make it. And there was more of
that Fany Gerson and her La Newyorkina paletas–she gets around.

Room 4 Dessert

Friday night at 6:30 might seem a bit early for dessert, but that's just the way it worked out. I had suggested trying Room 4 Dessert to a friend as a birthday present (I gave her Dirty Found too). It wasn't my fault that a month and a half passed between her date of birth and our sweet excursion.

Packdessert Apparently, the menu has recently changed, so many of the items I'd read about, Voyage to India in particular, were no longer being served. There were four choices of foursomes, and unfortunately, I didn't take a menu home so the finer details of each are hazy. Chocolate seemed too obvious, so I went with the PACK acronym, which showcased pistachio, apricot, cherries and kirsch. Despite the scary sounding name (and ingredients), I ordered a Mr. Clean cocktail anyway. You probably could clean tile with the pine liqueur, lemon, amaretto and whisky formula. It was bracing and medicinal (and almost reminded me of a thick white prescription liquid I had to drink for an ear infection I had when I was in preschool). But I was glad for the daring mixology.

Pistachio was my favorite PACK component, but I'm just partial to anything green that's not a vegetable. I wish I had paid closer attention to the preparations because now I fear making everything sound lackluster and simple. The cherries were in a liquid in a thick cylindrical pill bottle, the kirsch was blended into whipped cream with apricots underneath, and if I'm correct apricot was also the foundation of the sorbet which covered little crunchy bits.

Reddessert The belated birthday girl tried the red quartet, which contained hibiscus jello with ice lettuce, beet sorbet (or was it ice cream?), raspberry "bread" and a little white cake with cooked down red speck.

Ok, the two drinks at a bar around the corner, beforehand, and glass of cava mid-dessert aren't conducive to flavor recall. I'll definitely return with a clearer mind and palate. I can see this being an endearing late night stop.

Room 4 Dessert * 17 Cleveland Pl., New York,NY

Saigon Banh Mi So 1

I went a little sandwich crazy this Saturday. In less than thirty minutes I purchased a bocadillo from Despaña and two banh mi from this place. It was a bready Broome St. kind of afternoon.

Living in Sunset Park for a decent spell, Ba Xuyen has always been my go to spot. I think I've only tried So 1 once or twice, and years ago. I'd forgotten how many choices they had and how vegetarian friendly (lots of fake meat, gluten stuff) their banh mis can be. I was intrigued by a handwritten sign advertising chicken curry banh mi, but went with the classic, which is almost always a #1.

It's hard not to compare the Brooklyn and Manhattan sandwiches. Both are from the upper echelon of Saigon subs, but I'm partial to the Sunset Park style. I could be totally wrong, but Ba Xuyen's bread seems crispier, while So 1 has a softer style, more like an Italian roll. So 1 also uses more sausage, which I think is liberally laced with five-spice powder. Not a bad flavor, but it gives the sandwich an overall Chinese-y flair.

Like when I was in Hong Kong, certain stores just smelled Chinese, which I finally deduced meant five-spice powder to my senses. Much of Malaysia smelled, well, Malaysian. You'd be in a mall, walk past a store and get a whiff of Malaysia that I ultimately narrowed down to being toasted shrimp paste. I'm not sure what Vietnamese smells like–maybe lemongrass? Fish sauce, too, I guess. Nuoc cham?

Maybe it was just luck of the draw, but this banh mi had cilantro that was all stem, no leaf. I hate to admit that I have a stem phobia because it's very childish. But I've gotten much better, now I'll eat romaine no problem when ten years ago I'd nibble around the ribs. I'm a low maintenance eater, I swear, but there's something unsettling about biting into a wad of stems, not severing them neatly with your incisors, and then pulling the thin green stalks out of the sandwich with your mouth as you start to put the sandwich down.

Despite all my nitpicking, So1 still makes one of the better banh mis in Manhattan. If only the much revered banh mi would start popping up in midtown, all my problems would be solved. But you know they'd cost $7 and somehow manage to be pressed like a panini. (3/18/06)

Saigon Banh Mi So 1 * 369 Broome St., New York, NY


Though I don't do it very often, I love slowly getting drunk and spending more money than usual on fun food combinations. By the end of the evening, I'm never sure if I was blown away by my meal or if I'm in an unusually agreeable state of mind because of the wine and cocktails. I wish I had more experiences like this, and I suspect from reading reviews and blogs that quite a few New Yorkers blow hundreds of dollars on dinner numerous times a week. I don't know any of these gourmands personally, but one can only guess that sugar daddies, comps or expense accounts are involved. While a mildly peculiar resolution (to spend money more freely), I intend to attempt biweekly fine dining in 2006.

Public is one of those sort of high concept uber designed (I have to admit an attraction to the whole library chic motif–card catalogs, faux typewritten menus on clipboards, children's magazines on shelves, tempered with non-institutional gauzy panels–despite it not making much sense) places that I fully intended to visit when it first opened, but never got around to. There are just too many options in the city. But I'm glad that I chose it for our Christmas dinner this year.

We weren't the only ones who had the same idea. An office party, that I almost accidentally crashed, was going on in the "wine room" and large groups were also convivially celebrating throughout the space. We were seated next to one such family, so Manhattan. I can't even imagine my mother taking us anywhere classier than Poor Richard's, if we went out to eat at all. We spent a good portion of our meal trying to figure out if the diminutive female, sitting at her own table next to us, odd one out of a clan of six in three two-seaters, was a child or an adult. We ultimately decided on well behaved eleven-year-old. I don't think anyone said a word to her through the multi-course meal. Maybe that's very Manhattan, too.

For a starter I had the fried Coromandel oysters with shiso, sansho pepper and wasabi-yuzu dipping sauce. I don't know if I tasted the pepper, but wrapping the bivalve in the Japanese leaf was a nice contrast and cut the richness, sort of like using lettuce around Vietnamese spring rolls. My first choice would've been James's confit rabbit, foie gras, and Tahitian vanilla terrine with quince glazed grapes and breakfast radish (I have no idea what makes it a breakfast radish) but I was tipsy and didn't care enough to force him to relinquish his wise choice. Plus, he gave me a generous portion of the foie gras to shut me up.

I've noticed that I'm a complacent diner, meaning I'm not demanding and rarely ask questions. I frequently see waiters spending a good amount of time with tables and I guess this is expected and that I'm the weird one for knowing what I want and keeping the ordering process brief. But waitstaff seem to be disappointed when you don't need clarification. So, I was almost relieved when I saw an ingredient in my intended entre, grilled New Zealand snapper on curried cauliflower and kasundi with a crab, Thai basil and crispy garlic salad, which I was clueless about. Kasundi was a stumper. Our sweet waitress (she really was–the couple on our other side was drunker than we were and borderline obnoxious and she appeased them, no problem) informed me that it was a spicy tomato relish, and I swear my cluelessness warmed her to us. We tend to get cold service and I'm convinced it's because we don't elicit opinion and expertise.

Note the lone basil leaf

Following the lots of components, but one that's nearly absent formula, I didn't really notice the crispy garlic salad, which probably meant two slices of the clove. After earlier cocktails at Pegu Club, a gin and tonic in the bar and a few glasses of a random Semillon James chose on a whim because it wasn't Australian or New Zealand-ish, my thought processes were skewed. I actually chose this dish because I love fried basil, a Thai touch, but there was only a single leaf atop my stack of food. No matter, I enjoyed the flavors, which were very distinct, sweet, saline and hotter than anticipated. Kasundi is Indian, as it turns out.

Rather than finishing sweet as usual, we opted for a plate of Spanish cheeses (Caa de Cabra, Tetilla, Roncal and Valdeon) with marcona almonds, apple chutney and focaccia crisps. I also went for a glass of Fonseca port. I've neglected to mention the bread basket, which became an irrational focus for James. There was a fennel roll that he became enamored with and seemed hurt that we only got to choose one piece of bread at the beginning of the meal. Emboldened by the liquor and rambunctiousness of fellow diners, I was like "just ask for another," especially since the crisps ran out well before the cheese. Our waitress gladly obliged our request for extra starch.

Decimated and unappetizing, I know

And as we waited for the coat check girl to return to her post, we were mesmerized by the baskets of bread that were inexplicably housed on a shelf across from the closet. Yes, James stuffed his pocket with a fennel roll. I don't think he ever ate the pilfered bread–it'll eventually become a moldy souvenir.


Public * Elizabeth St., New York, NY



More bar than restaurant really. ‘90s Soho hangouts arent really my
thing, but I did appreciate their flagrant ignoring of the smoking ban. See
my Time Out NY
Eating & Drinking Guide review

Pravda* 281 Lafayette St., New York,

Vietnam Banh Mi

This place totally rules. I'd been looking for a place like this since I
first moved here. In Portland, I used to frequent this take-out shop, Cali
Sandwiches, next to a Plaid Pantry, which was along the same lines. A small
variety of offering like Vietnamese sandwiches (or Saigon Subs as they like
to call them in Toronto), packaged shrimp chips and cases of homemade
desserts in wild colors made from ingredients such as tapioca, agar agar,
coconut milk and rice. They also have fresh squeezed juices and oddities
like a basil seed beverage.

I'm used to a choice of meats, but there wasn't even a menu so I just
ordered "two sandwiches" and hoped for the best. The banh mi were advertised
on the awning and there were French rolls behind the counter so I figured
I'd get something at least vaguely related to what I was used to. I got
barbecued pork and that's just what I expected, so all was well. They ask if
you want hot sauce (and you do). Though I was accustomed to a $1.50 price
tag, the $2.50 for the New York version is a bargain. It doesn't get much
better than that. Now, Nem is a horse of a different

Viet-namBanh-Mi So 1 Inc. * 329 Broome St., New New York

Funky Broome

Broome due to its Broome Street location and funky…well, because it's sort
of funky, I suppose. From the glowing pink and green plexiglass to the
marinated goose intestines–that is Funky Broome.

There are some Chinese restaurant standards on the menu, but I was more
intrigued by the mini woks, hot pots and their liberal use of lychees and
macadamia nuts. I also couldn't take my eyes off the tank of eels and
craggy, warty looking fish–especially since I was sitting right next to it,
up close and personal.

We got a hot pot of taro and chicken, which was rich, casserole-like and
included the title items, but was also spiked with cilantro, the
aforementioned macadamia nuts and meaty mushrooms. If that wasn't hearty
enough, I also picked the duck liver and pork sausage with rice in a fake
bamboo serving dish (even though I knew I'd be the only one eating it). How
can you not like Chinese sausage? A nice light addition were the salt and
pepper prawns that came with a sprinkling of jalepeno, which is always a
welcome touch.

I don't know if the planets were aligning in a peculiar way, but that
evening Funky Broome was a magnet for friends of James's that I only know in
passing. On the approach he spied some guy he went to college with who I'd
met once at a party. Then after getting seated and ordering he noticed a
coworker, Chris, sitting across the room and it turned into one of those do
I go over and say hi or make conversation when I pay the bill sorts of
dilemmas. And then next thing I knew, a different coworker, Alan, was
standing next to our table. He'd seen us in the window, which is easy to
imagine since the place is lit up like a beacon.

If you're into eclectic Hong Kong cooking and are prepared to run into
people you may or may not want to converse with, you might want to add Funky
Broome to your Chinatown repertoire.

Funky Broome * 176 Mott St., New York, NY